Mail on Sunday ordered to publish front-page statement on Meghan's High Court victory

5 March 2021, 14:32 | Updated: 5 March 2021, 23:10

Meghan was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim last month
Meghan was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim last month. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The High Court has ordered the Mail On Sunday to publish a front-page statement about Meghan Markle's victory in her copyright claim against the paper after it printed a private letter to her father.

Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, has also been ordered to print a notice on page three of the paper stating it "infringed her copyright" by publishing parts of the letter sent to Thomas Markle.

In a ruling on Friday, Lord Justice Warby granted Meghan a declaration that ANL "misused her private information and infringed her copyright".

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The Duchess of Sussex, 39, sued ANL over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a "heartfelt" letter to Mr Markle in August 2018.

She claimed the five articles, published in February 2019, involved a misuse of her private information, breached her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.

Last month, she was granted summary judgment in relation to her privacy claim, meaning she won that part of the case without having to go to trial, as well as most of her copyright claim.

At a remote hearing this week, ANL's lawyers applied for permission to appeal against that ruling on 10 grounds.

But Lord Justice Warby refused permission, saying it had "no real prospect" of success.

On Friday, he explained he "did not consider that there is any real prospect that the Court of Appeal would reach a different conclusion as to the outcome of the claim for misuse of private information, or as to the issues I decided in the copyright claim".

The judge said he would order ANL to publish a notice about Meghan's victory as it would have "genuine utility".

He added: "The defendant devoted a very considerable amount of space to the infringing articles, which it continued to publish for over two years.

"It has devoted a very considerable number of further column inches, and many hundreds if not thousands of words, to coverage of earlier stages of this litigation and commentary upon them.

"The wording sought is modest by comparison, and factual in nature.”

The judge ordered that The Mail On Sunday must print "on a single occasion a statement on the front page", which refers readers to a further statement on page three of the newspaper.

The statement will read: "The court has given judgment for the Duchess of Sussex on her claim for copyright infringement.

"The court found that Associated Newspapers infringed her copyright by publishing extracts of her handwritten letter to her father in The Mail On Sunday and in MailOnline.

"There will be a trial of the remedies to which the duchess is entitled, at which the court will decide whether the duchess is the exclusive owner of copyright in all parts of the letter, or whether any other person owns a share."

Lord Justice Warby also ordered ANL to publish the statement on MailOnline "for a period of one week" with a hyperlink to his full judgment.

The judge added: "In my judgment, these are measured incursions into the defendant's freedom to decide what it publishes and does not publish, that are justified in pursuit of the legitimate aim I have identified, and proportionate to that aim.”

In the ruling last month, the judge said publication of Meghan's letter to her father was "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful".

He said: "It was, in short, a personal and private letter.

"The majority of what was published was about the claimant's own behaviour, her feelings of anguish about her father's behaviour, as she saw it, and the resulting rift between them.

"These are inherently private and personal matters."